Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS continues apace, and the New York Observer notes that the discovery process has already uncovered some gems.  After the Killian memos turned out to be forgeries, CBS appointed Richard Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi to oversee their internal investigation.  They had a few others in mind, too, and their list turns out to be a who’s who among the Right in 2004:

  • William Buckley
  • Robert Novak
  • Kate O’Beirne
  • Nicholas Von Hoffman
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Pat Buchanan
  • George Will
  • Lou Dobbs
  • Matt Drudge
  • Robert Barkley
  • Robert Kagan
  • Fred Barnes
  • William Kristol
  • John Podhoretz
  • David Brooks
  • William Safire
  • Bernard Goldberg
  • Ann Coulter
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Christopher Hitchens
  • PJ O’Rourke
  • Christopher Caldwell
  • Elliot Abrams
  • Charles Krauthammer
  • William Bennett
  • Rush Limbaugh

Rather accuses CBS of deliberately hiring Thornburgh, a Republican who served as Attorney General under George H. W. Bush, as a means of destroying Rather’s reputation.  CBS countered in their filing that they hired Thornburgh “not for any nefarious purpose, but to open itself up to its harshest conservative critics and to ensure that the Panel’s findings would be found credible.”  Thornburgh, as a respected attorney and prosecutor, had better ways to use his reputation that to unfairly discredit Rather, and in the end issued a weak final report that refused to state the obvious: the memos were fraudulent.

Rather could have had it much worse.  Some of the names on this list would have salivated at the chance to rip into Rather.  CBS should have noted this list years ago; it might have impressed some of its critics.

A few names deserve some special mention other than the headlining Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Matt Drudge.  Christopher Hitchens, for example, is no conservative, but instead a furiously honest commentator who might have not been a bad third man to add to Thornburgh and Boccardi.  Bill Bennett would have brought a level of calm, rational discourse and personal credibility to the review.

But I’m most impressed that CBS would have considered Bernie Goldberg for the task.  Goldberg made a lot of enemies with the book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, including Rather himself but also many at CBS News.  Of all the people on the list in 2004, he had the strongest voice on media bias from the inside of the industry. Had CBS added Goldberg, it would have been a public affront to Rather, but it would have spoken to their intent to get to the bottom of the affair and hold people accountable.

I wish they’d followed through on that impulse. I bet Bernie would have loved that assignment. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Bias, I suggest you do so immediately. It’s still the best inside look at how the media distorts the news to its own purposes, and it practically predicted the Memogate scandal at CBS.